(ATR) Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda reiterated payments made to a Singaporean consulting firm in 2012 were legitimate, as French investigators continue to probe vote buying for the Tokyo 2020 bid.
Takeda's press conference drew a large number of media (Getty Images)
Takeda called a press conference in Tokyo where he delivered a seven minute statement that differed little from a written statement he released after reports surfaced that the French investigation had progressed. He spoke only in Japanese and took no questions from the assembled local and international media.
“I am very sorry for having caused concern for those working very hard to prepare for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympics and Paralympics,” Takeda said to assembled media.
Takeda said that he was the final person to sign off on the $2.1 million payment to consulting firm Black Tidings, but that “a few people approved” the payments before him. French investigators say that the firm was tied to Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IOC member Lamine Diack. Both are under investigation for vote buying.
“Two consultant contracts were concluded in accordance with ordinary approval procedures,” Takeda said, adding that he was not individually involved in the process. “The approval for the two contracts was approved by the bidding committee.”
Tokyo 2020 said in a statement that it “has no means of knowing the details of the Bid Committee’s activities” regarding the payments.
“We believe that the Games were awarded to Tokyo because the city presented the best bid,” a Tokyo 2020 spokesperson said. “There are just 18 months to go until the Tokyo 2020 Games and we intend to carry on preparing for them.”
Takeda was president of the Tokyo 2020 bid committee, which dissolved in 2014. He remains president of the Japanese Olympic Committee and has been an IOC member since 2001. Takeda competed at both the 1972 and 1976 Olympics in equestrian, and is the descendant of the Meiji era emperor.
In the IOC Takeda leads the influential Marketing Commission and has helped sign multiple new TOP Sponsors since becoming the commission’s chair in 2014. Takeda will skip the upcoming marketing commission meeting in Lausanne on Jan. 19 for "personal reasons," an IOC spokesperson confirmed to Around the Rings
He vowed to continue cooperating with French prosecutors to prove his innocence, but that an internal probe from the Japanese Olympic Committee had proved the payments to be legitimate.
French prosecutors announced last week that a formal investigation into Takeda had been advanced as part of its ongoing probe into corruption surrounding former IOC member Lamine Diack. The designation by a French magistrate means that prosecutors believe there is “serious or consistent evidence” a crime was committed.
The French legal system grants broad investigative powers to prosecutors in these cases, and the designation does not necessarily mean that Takeda will go to trial.
Takeda spoke with the IOC Ethics Commission via videoconference last week, but no immediate action was taken following the meeting. The IOC says Takeda is being given the “presumption of innocence” as the investigation continues.
The French prosecutor confirms to ATR
that the legal status of Takeda in the case is the same as Frank Fredericks and Lamine Diack. Fredericks, IOC member from Namibia, self-suspended himself after he was included in the sprawling French probe for a payment to a consultant firm tied to Papa Diack. Lamine Diack resigned his honorary IOC membership ahead of an IOC Ethics Committee investigation.
Multiple other IOC members have been suspended or self-suspended in recent years due to corruption allegations.
Rio 2016 President Carlos Nuzman’s honorary IOC membership was suspended after he was arrested in Brazil as part of a corruption probe related to vote buying for the 2016 Olympic election, done in coordination with the French authorities. Nuzman’s trial is ongoing.
Influential Olympic powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah stepped away from his Olympic roles late last year after being charged with forgery in Switzerland. He is expected to go to trial in March and has vowed to fight his innocence.
Patrick Hickey’s IOC membership is still in limbo as he awaits trial after being arrested during the 2016 Olympics for ticket touting.
Written by Aaron Bauer with additional reporting from Hironori Hashimoto in Tokyo
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